Last year – I did a post on what to wear for winter running and have decided to update it for this year, since we are coming around to that wonderful time of year.
So what do you wear for winter running?
Up in my neck of the woods (Central Maine), usually running around “heah” in shorts, a cotton t-shirt and regular road running shoes, from late fall through the first part of spring , could be hazardous to your health.
There are serious things to consider when running in the winter that is not a problem other times of year:
Disclaimer: This post is about my opinions about what I wear and what works for me, when running outside during the winter. What you choose to wear or when and where you decide to run are your choices and may be very different from the one’s that I discuss here. The bottom line is that you have to make your own decisions on what you wear or when you run.
I have used regular running shoes during winter runs and landed on my butt far too often, which hurts both your ass and your ego among other things, especially when you look around to see if anyone saw you fall.
Look at the treads on the bottom the shoes you have now, how do you think they would handle snow, slush, wet roads or muddy conditions? Think about it and it might save you from landing on your butt, with people around you applauding your acrobatic skills.
In regions where there is snow, slush, mud or even wet conditions, I strongly believe that you need a running shoe with a great tread. Most running shoe manufacturers make trail running shoes I have had good luck running in them when it is nasty out. You never know what kind of weather you will run into during the winter and for me they do the trick.
In icy conditions, I don’t like to run and have cut many runs short, when it got too icy. You can try things that attach to your shoes or screws, but in my opinion running when it is icy is asking for problems.
If it there is a lot of snow on the ground where you are running, you can also add in a small set of gaiters to help keep the snow/wet out of shoes. Dry feet are happier feet, but I pretty much expect my feet to get wet when running in the snow and rain.
Like I said you can pretty much plan on your feet getting wet, during snow, rain or slushy conditions. In the winter and you need something that is going to keep your feet warm even when wet. I like to use a synthetic sock or merino wool-blend sock in the winter time – definitely no cotton. Personally once it gets colder, I use Merino Wool Hiking Boot Socks, yes they are a little thicker than your regular running socks, so your foot might be a little snugger in your shoe, but they do keep my feet warm in most conditions.
When buying shoes that I am going to run in the Winter time, I take the socks I am going to wear and try the shoes on with them on, so that the shoes fit correctly and are not too tight or if I am going to wear gaiters very often with them, I bring the gaiters with me also. I want to know that my shoes will fit correctly and the equipment all works well together.
I don’t know about you, but if my feet are cold, it is no fun running.
Below the Waist
After a while you just shouldn’t wear shorts, your legs will thank you and in my opinion you will be injured less. Good old-fashioned lined wind pants are not sexy (as long as the liner is not cotton), flap in the breeze, but they work well to keep you warm. However, I prefer to wear synthetic running skin tights or looser fitting winter running pants that have a layer of windstopper material (my personal preference), they just feel more comfortable when I am running. You just have to think about how cold it will be outside and not how much of a fashion plate you need to be while running.
But if you are like me and chafe your inner thighs too easily, you either have to grease up between those babies (vaseline, body glide, etc.),
If you need an emergency windstopper panel or if you don’t want a line in your running tights – baggies do a great job protecting things – you know what I mean guys.
Dress in layers using synthetic materials. Personally I like a skin-tight synthetic base layer – hey no one can see the unsightly bulges of fat underneath the other layers. I want to make sure that this bottom layer wicks away moisture to the next layer. Over that I like another synthetic or wool blend, only this time a long sleeve version if it is cold enough. Finally, dependent upon how cold it is I add a synthetic fleece vest and/or a windproof shell.
There is a lot of personal choice here and a lot of people just run with what they have on hand for light-weight winter hats.
Most of the time I run with a head band to cover my ears, with my Hi-Vis ball cap (see the picture at the top of the post). If it is extra cold, like below 10F, I have a neoprene face mask that I wear (that I have had and used for years), but it tends to fog up my glasses, so it is a catch-22 sometimes.
Wearing a ball cap/head band combo also makes it easier to vent excess heat quickly if you begin to overheat – just stuff the ball cap in your pants (the hat will wash). That way your ears still stay warm, and when you start to cool down you can put the hat back on. I plan to shower after running, so it doesn’t really matter .
I usually have a pair of fleece gloves (liners) to run in and when it gets colder, a mitten shell to go over the top of the gloves. I guess you could just wear the mitten shell and add the gloves when it gets colder, but for me the other way works fine. If my fingers get cold while wearing the gloves, I take my fingers out of the finger holes and curl them up in the palm area.
If it is really cold, I just wear my ski mittens and a liner, they haven’t gotten cold resorting to this.
This is not something to take lightly, when running you need to be seen by those driving in motor vehicles (you know – cars, trucks, buses, semis and around here dump trucks), especially since days are a lot shorter and it is dark when many of us run.
WEAR REFLECTIVE GEAR and a have a light. yes I yelled – but it is a safety issue for you and the drivers.
I also drive a 4WD truck or small SUV when I am not running. When I come up suddenly on runners wearing their favorite black or dark-colored clothes, without reflective gear at dusk or dark:
- First I get pissed because they startled me. I probably almost hit them and in my efforts to avoid them almost got into some kind of accident.
- Second, the runners are probably not too happy either, because a good sized truck or SUV just put them into the snow bank, ditch or came too close for comfort.
- Finally, I feel sorry for their next of kin, because sooner or later they are going to either be killed or maimed for their stupidity.
I hate reading about runners being hit because the driver couldn’t see them or about a vehicle going off the road to avoid a runner they couldn’t see until the last-minute. Wear the brightest and most visible (reflective) clothing you can find if you run when visibility is not good. Cars win.
Take the time to ensure that you can be seen by drivers in the dark and that you have a light with you so you can see hazards in the road.
I haven’t found any of the anti-fogging stuff that actually works for me and I no longer wear contacts, which means my ability to see
is compromised sucks in bad weather.
So a ball cap of some type is standard for just about all of my running, year round. The hat helps keep rain, snow off them and combats bright sunlight when I forget my sunglass clips.
And no going without glasses is not a real good choice, I enjoy seeing what is going to hit me. Yes I am blind as a bat without my glasses.
I tend to overdress more often than not. I prefer to be a little too warm than not warm enough, especially when starting out. If I get too warm I can take something off and tie it around my waist. While if I don’t have an extra layer with me and I am cold, I have to just suffer through it, until I get home or cut the run short.
Those are my general ideas for how to dress while running outside during the Winter time. There are some lessons that I have learned the hard way (using baggies in front of the privates, when it is really cold), good tread design for your shoes, (I have fallen and ended up like a pretzel more than once), and all the other experiences I have had while running in the winter, which enabled me to learn what works and more importantly what doesn’t for me.
If you decided that you want to enjoy the benefits of running during the most challenging time of the year (in my opinion), think about what you are wearing before you go outside. Stopping for that short look to see what you have on, before you step out the door, may make your run more enjoyable and help ensure that you come back safely and uninjured.
Again how you dress when running during the Winter is completely your choice, after all you are responsible for what you do when you step out that door, these are just things that I do.
Originally written by Harold Shaw published at One Foot In Reality and re-written and edited for publication at Veteran Runner © 2011-2012 – All Rights Reserved. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Harold Shaw and A Veteran Runner with appropriate and specific directions or links to the original content.